Great to be back in the park for our Autumn Volunteer Morning

Volunteer Morning – Saturday 19th October

We’d postponed our Volunteer morning by a week to avoid the torrential rains of the previous weekend. We were rewarded with a very mild, and dry, Autumnal day.

As usual the Friends team, Fiona, Bryn, Nausheen and myself, were on site early to get our base-camp area set-up, supported by a couple of regulars – James, the photographer, and Malcolm.

We’d put in place extra precautions to protect our volunteers during this COVID crisis – these included clean/dirty tool areas, brand new gloves, registration, and social distanced working groups.

We had no idea how many people would come down today – given the current state of affairs. As it turned, we were not to be disappointed. We had a fantastic turn-out, with lots of regular faces, and some new faces. Everyone was very respectful of the safety measures we’d put in place. A massive thank-you to everyone who came down and who made such a huge effort to get our park looking great.

(Video – Fiona Sowell)

We did have a few people litter-picking, but it is testament to the hard work of the weekday group that we only managed to fill up two large bags with rubbish. We did find a set of golf clubs. Not sure how they got there!

With so many people on site, we were able to take on lots of jobs. The pond area was cleared-back and opened-up. We want to avoid the pond space becoming overgrown and dark.

Our volunteers worked hard to spread wood-chip on the path around the pond, the path across the private land, and the one that goes past the bird-feeders at the back of the park. A lot of bramble was removed at the front near the road, and some of the trees here had their lower branches removed to help open-up sight-lines and improve the shape of their crowns. At the back of the park a cut-through between the rear sports field and the rear meadow was re-opened, and wood-chip spread through here. These cut-throughs make the space more interesting to walk around.

Apart from the fact that lots of work was done, I also reflect on how lovely it was being out working in the park with our fellow neighbours. What a great sense of comradery and common purpose there was. There’s no doubt that these events are very good for our mental as well as physical well-being.

We all have a shared interest in our local park, and many have come to really appreciate the amenity it has offered us during lockdown and afterwards. As a community we’ll keep working to protect and improve this wonderful space.

(Thank-you to Andy Robinson, Community Manager, idverde, for organising the tools and the wood-chip deliveries, and also to Elliot Newton for lending additional tools from your Citizen Zoo tool stash. Once again thanks to James Campbell taking photos).

 

(Photograph by James Campbell)

(Photograph by James Campbell)

(Photograph by James Campbell)

(Photograph by James Campbell)

(Photograph by James Campbell)

(Photograph by James Campbell)

(Photograph by James Campbell)

(Photograph by James Campbell)

(Photograph by James Campbell)

(Photograph by James Campbell)

 

 

Opening up the overgrown cut-through at the back of the park

Anyone missing some golf clubs?

Dreadful swing..

The wild-side of Old Malden

Simeon Linstead, Chair of Friends of Manor Park, interviews local wildlife expert, Elliot Newton, about the wildlife you might (or might not expect) to find at Manor Park and at the Hogsmill River.

Elliot was one of the team that made this wonderful film about the Hogsmill River.

Manor Park Scavenger Hunt

What better way to get your kids out for an exercise than with the NEW Manor Park Scavenger Hunt. Created by Amy Odero, this scavenger hunt will appeal to younger children, helping them to explore the park.

Will they be able to find one of our community bat boxes or the seasonal pond?

Many thanks Amy.

Manor Park

NatureFest in Manor Park

Nature is our thing

The Friends of Manor Park is a community group set up to protect and improve Manor Park. Nature and wildlife have been central to a lot of our volunteer work, from restoring wooded areas and the seasonal pond, planting wild-flowers and bulbs, to installing community bird-boxes and our new bird-feeding station.

Last year…

Last year we ran Nature Day, which was a rather low-key event. We sowed wildflowers, did some general woodland maintenance and laid on a handful of nature activities for the cubs and local children. We had a pretty good turn-out.

….but this year….

This year we wanted to step it up a gear (or two), so we came up with a name – ‘NatureFest’ and the brief that we wanted a nature themed event, come celebration in the park. Our newest team member, Nausheen Arnold, put herself forward to organise it.

Local business backers

It wasn’t long before she was reporting back with some positive news about the growing and impressive event line-up. We wanted the event to be really good, so Fiona Sowell, who’s been with the group right from start, spoke with a handful of local businesses who said they’d bank-roll the event. Our main sponsor was Worcester Park Tiles, and we had also had financial support from Jazz Barbers, Dental Sense and Bruce Elliot.

All set to go

And so it was, after a several months of sweat and tears, (actually it was all very calm), we stood in the middle of the park on Saturday 18th May surrounded by a colourful assortment of gazebos sheltering a number of wildlife organisations, a nature crafting activity area and several food stalls (including a very posh looking coffee van), a massive green tractor courtesy of idverde the park contractor, various elegant birds of prey were lined up on perches, a hall full of reptiles, a very accomplished looking musical act, and a disco bouncy-castle. A team of wonderful helpers were at the ready (comprised of a lot of familiar faces – people who often volunteer their time).

A substantial crowd

The weather had been forecast to be chilly and overcast, but as luck would have it the day brightened up and was actually rather warm. So, before we knew it, the park started to fill and it wasn’t long before we had quite a substantial crowd milling about. The band played wonderfully, creating just the right atmosphere. We had a queue of people buying tokens for the reptile display and the bouncy castle. Children took part in a selection of crafting activities from making finger snakes to edible wild-bird treats. Our face painting artist transformed many a child into a zebra, ferocious lion or other wild creature.

Even the Green Man turned up…..

Wildlife talks

Throughout the day we ran a programme of wildlife talks – from the nature in the park to hedgehogs. These talks were led by our friend Elliot Newton from conservation upstarts Citizen Zoo, who’s mission it is to re-wild our natural spaces (and us). He’s been instrumental in the conservation work we do in Manor Park – our go-to expert. Elliot also led a pond-dipping activity, which the children absolutely loved. And no one fell in.

Falconry display

The falconry displays were probably the high point of the day. At least two hundred people surrounded the flying arena each time, where a very interactive show took place. Owls and eagles swooping low over the heads of the children sitting on the grass.

Snakes, lizards and spiders

In the hall various snakes, lizards and some rather large spiders entertained the onlookers. I latterly saw a photo of a white snake wrapping itself around the neck of one of my daughter’s friends. She seemed far too relaxed.

The park was full of life

It was lovely seeing the park so busy. We’d kicked off just as the junior football league were finishing their trials, the bowls club was also having its open day (its busiest yet we’ve been told), and behind us in the rear sports field a cricket game went on all afternoon.

Friends of Manor Park

We had lots of visitors to the Friends of Manor Park gazebo, including some of our local councillors, Des Kay from Save the World Club (the people behind the Malden Manor Mosaic) dressed up as the Green Man, other Friends groups to many locals interested in our work to create a strategic master-plan for Manor Park. Our landscape architect was on hand to answer questions. The first major investment you’ll see in Manor Park will be a revamped playground – hopefully this side of Christmas.

A sudden downpour

Anyway, before we knew it the event was over and the stallholders were packing up. We were surprised how many people were still hanging around, however a very heavy downpour 15 minutes after we finished soon emptied the park.

A BIG thank-you

A big thank-you to everyone who showed their support by attending or helping in some way. We’ve had lots of great feedback, and it is our intention to put on an even bigger NatureFest next year, so watch this space.

Get involved with Friends of Manor Park

Do keep an eye out on what we’re up to – either check out our website, follow us on Facebook or just drop us an email at team@ourmanorpark.org.uk We’ve just kicked off our Friend for Life membership – so do drop us an email and we’ll send you details. We’ll put up a new form shortly – ‘just been a little busy of late :-).

Get involved in NatureFest 2020

If you or your organisation would like to get involved next year, then do drop us a line, we’d love to speak with you. team@ourmanorpark.org.uk

Bramble-bashing, litter-picking and bat boxes at Manor Park

It was Saturday 22nd September and the Friends of Manor Park were running another volunteer morning. It’s been just under 12 months since we ran our first such event, which incidentally was supported by over 50 local volunteers. Last year we were blessed with bright sunshine. This year, however, the skies were looking grey and rather foreboding as we set up our gazebo on the grassy area by the seasonal pond. As you can imagine, we were a little worried about how many people would turn up.

Our mission was to push back the bramble that was spreading out towards the cut-through path near the road. After a long hot summer, the park also needed a deep clean – with lots of litter having found its way into the undergrowth. We’d also given local families some bird and bat box kits to assemble (and decorate if they were feeling creative!). Our plan was to install these boxes in the woodland around Manor Park to create extra habitat for our winged friends. It’s also a great way to engage children in conservation type activities.

My worries about turnout were soon proven unfounded, as by kick-off at 10am about 30 people had gathered by our gazebo, and over the course of the morning we counted in excess of 40. So, a really good show – particularly given how nasty the weather became.

We kicked off our day with a quick update on Friends of Manor Park activities. 2019 is the 90th anniversary of our park. We’ve decided, following advice from the Mayor of London’s team, that it would be great opportunity to produce a five year plan for our park – which will deal with a lot of the issues that the local residents have raised e.g. improving the playground, improving security, sorting out the paths, better management of the natural spaces, improvements to the tennis courts, quality of the sports pitches, determining how the community would like to see the hall develop – some are eager for a small café – and much more besides.  It’s an exciting opportunity, one which will involve the community heavily in the decision-making process, and which we hope you’ll support at this early stage by making a small pledge to our crowdfunding campaign.

We handed over to Elliot Newton, our environmental expert, who took us all through the tasks for the day, and an equipment safety talk. By this time some of the assembled, and highly decorated, bird and bat box kits had arrived, along with the very creative families who’d turned these humble items into works of art. Elliot headed off with these families in toe to install the boxes in the woodland. Try and find them next time you’re our exploring in the park. We’ve still got 4 more to put up – so we’ll be inviting these families down when we do this.

Whilst Elliot was balancing himself precariously on a ladder in various parts of the park, another group of residents, led by Cllr Simon Edwards, were picking up litter. There seemed to be a lot less litter in the park than when we first blitzed it last October – which was a good sign. Simon found a small camp type area in the rear of the park where it appears people must gather for a bit of late-night drinking from time to time. It was cleared of beer cans, laughing gas cannisters, and other debris.

 

Back in the meadow by the road, we were bashing away at the brambles. Although they provide a great natural habitat for birds and other wildlife and a wonderful harvest of blackberries each year, they do grow at quit a rate, so left unchecked they spread themselves covering over grassy areas and turning woodland into thicket.

Pushing them back is easier said than done. In the wild, boar will restrain the spread of bramble, no such luck at Manor Park. All the growth that is visible is first chopped out, and then the roots have to be removed with mattocks (these are similar to pick-axes). The roots for each plant send out runners which spread the plants further and further. Amongst the bramble-bashers, we were joined by Cllr Nicola Sheppard from Old Malden, and Cllr Tim Cobbett from St.James Ward.

It’s worth noting that we’ve had lots of support from all our local councillors from both sides of the political divide in the work we do to protect and improve Manor Park.

By about half-eleven the rain was coming down quite heavily – but our volunteers stuck at it. We took our tea break at midday, which was a great opportunity for everyone to meet and get to know each-other.

The brambled-bashing went on all morning because we were trying to push back quite a large area of over-growth. Our volunteers managed to fill a large trailer with cuttings. We discovered a couple of hawthorn trees that had almost been assumed by the bramble. There was obviously a line of trees that had been planted here back in the 90s. We’ll look to do further work ensure these trees aren’t completely overrun.

You can see in the picture below how little vegetation there used to be in this area – but following some work in the 90s it’s become a wonderful natural space.

Towards the end of the day a few of us extracted several panels of broken fencing from near the corner of the privately-owned land by the railway bridge – these were some of the last remaining panels of fencing that the landowner had erected several years ago. This broken fencing had sharp metal spikes sticking out of it – so it was very satisfying to move it away from the path and stack it on the edge of private land by the railway. It’s worth noting that we are working with the Ramblers Association to assert a public right of way across this land.

So, all in all a very successful day. A big thank-you to all the local volunteers who gave up their time to help make our park that little bit nicer. We also appreciate the support we get from our local councillors, Elliot Newton, Andy at idverde (the park contractor), and Tesco, McColls, and the Coop for providing the refreshments.

Our next Volunteer Morning is on Saturday 10th November – you’ll need to wrap up warm for this one.


Simeon Linstead

Chair – Friends of Manor Park

Team@ourmanorpark.org.uk

 

Right of way – call for evidence

Did you use the Manor Park during the years 1990 – 2010 – and did you enter the park from the entrance nearest the railway bridge? Perhaps you walked your dog there regularly? Perhaps you know someone who did? We’d like to hear from you.

As many of you are aware the land in the corner of the park was sold off to a private individual, and around 2013 he fenced it off, and denied access to a path that used to run from the road immediately next to the railway bridge into the park. A new path was then built alongside this privately owned area of land which you may now use instead.

  

What you may not know is that the old path, which was fenced off, was in our opinion, a legal right of way. Friends of Manor Park is working with the Ramblers Association to assert this right of way. We have strong evidence from council photographs that a path existed across this land for many decades, but we would also like to hear from anyone who used this path during the period 1990 -2010 to further support our claim.

NB The path is once again in use – but we’d like to ensure this remains permanently so.

Please get in touch at team@ourmanorpark.org.uk

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